Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Family Blog

Mom! Watch DadFAIL
Check out our new family humor blog. It's called Mom! Watch DadFAIL
We also have a twitter feed.

We'd love for you to check it out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Star Trek Potato Heads

Here's what I want to know: do they have a forehead ridges attachment for the Kligons?

Those who are not a Star Trek fan may be wondering right about now: why? Dear God why? The answer: because we can!

Here's the a bit of detail:

PPW Toys will release Star Trek Mr. Potato Head collectible figures in a series of TOS-centric sets, and they’ll kick it off with Captain Kirk – going from stud to spud -- and his old Klingon foe, Kor. Subsequent sets will include Mr. Spock and Lt. Uhura, for example, and they may also feature familiar TOS equipment and Enterprise components.
“Even though it’s taken a lot of time and hard work, this project is like a dream come true for me, speaking personally,” says Dean Gorby, PPW Toys’ business manager. “I grew up in the 70’s and TOS was my favorite show. So to work on a project like this is surreal.”

--now I have something to get my girls for Christmas.
Kirk: "So you are saying we are a child's plaything?"
Kor: "INDEED, they have no honor!"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gospel Growth & Loving Christians

I'm reading a Gospel Primer for Christian by Milton Vincent. I am about half way through the short book and I'd commend it to you for your personal meditation and growth. Here are couple of exerts about the effect of the gospel in growing my love for Christians.

"The more I experience the gospel, the more there develops within me a yearning affection for my fellow-Christians who are also participating in the glories of the gospel. This affection for them comes loaded with confidence in their continued spiritual growth and ultimate glorification, and it becomes my pleasure to express to them this loving confidence regarding the ongoing work of God in their lives.
Additionally, with the gospel proving itself to be such a boon in my life, I realize that the greatest gift I can give to my fellow-Christians is the gospel itself. Indeed, I love my fellow-Christians not simply because of the gospel, but I love them best when I am loving them with the gospel. And I do this not merely by speaking gospel words to them, but also by living before them and generously relating to them in a gospel manner. Imparting my life to them in this way, I thereby contribute to their experience of the power, the Spirit, and the full assurance of the gospel.
By preaching the gospel to myself each day, I nurture the bond that unites me with my brothers and sisters for whom Christ died, and I also keep myself well-versed in the raw materials with which I may actively love them in Christ." (pp.22-23)

The gospel shapes the way I look at the church:
"Hence, the more I comprehend the full scope of the gospel, the more I value the church for which Christ died, the more I value the role that I play in the lives of my fellow-Christians, and the more I appreciate the role that they must be allowed to play in mine." (p.24)

The gospel shapes relationships and my forgiveness of others:
"When my mind is fixed on the gospel, I have ample stimulation to show God's love to other people. For I am always willing to show love to others when I am freely mindful of the love that God has shown men.  Also, the gospel gives me the wherewithal to give forgiving grace to those who have wronged me, for it reminds me daily of the forgiving grace that God is showing me.
Doing good and showing love to those who have wronged me is always the opposite of what my sinful flesh wants me to do. Nonetheless, when I remind myself of my sins against God and of His forgiving and generous grace toward me, I give the gospel an opportunity to reshape my perspective and to put me in a frame of mind wherein I actually desire to give this same grace to those who have wronged me." (pp.24-25)
This of course echoes Jesus' parable in Matthew 18 of the servant who is forgiven a great debt but is unable to forgive the debt owed him. When we grasp the free forgiveness of the gospel, we in turn are willing to freely forgive and show sacrificial love. Many times what keeps us from forgiving others is pride. We rationalize: "We have been wronged," we demand that we are owed justice and fair reparation, or equal treatment to set the scales right. And yet, in God's forgiveness of us, he absorbs the cost of that forgiveness by sending the Son to pay for sin. 

When a Christian forgives, it is costly in a different sense. It is cost because it forces us to be humble enough to be willing to forgive. It entails forgoing our right or the justice we deserve and showing mercy and love. It entails serving the other person and not considering ourselves better than them because we were in the right and they were wrong. Love is profoundly sacrificial and that's why it takes the gospel to   "get it" and show true love to others.

Pastoral Groaning & Church Commitment

Does your pastor groan when he thinks of you? is a question that this article asks of church attenders. It is a question based upon Hebrews 13:17.
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
The main bulk of the article is about commitment to your local church:
It is not uncommon for me to counsel someone who has a low-committment to their local church. This kind of “low view of the local church” invites sin into their lives. Paul wrote most of his letters to local churches. His appeals for sanctification were not primarily to individuals, but to local churches. You can draw an accurate assumption from Paul’s writings that Christians belonged to and were committed to a local church. That is simply not true in our day.
If you attend a local church, but do not belong to a local church, then I appeal to you to determine if your current church is for you and, if so, then I appeal to you to fully commit to your church. One of the ways you can do this is by allowing them to care for you with joy. I used to be a pastor and I found it particularly challenging when the occasional person came to our church, who would not commit to our church. I considered it analogous to a divorced dad trying to parent his children every other weekend. Even if he wanted to parent his kids every other weekend, it was not feasible for him to pull it off successfully.
Low or no commitment to a local church can also be likened to a man who cuts his leg from his body while assuming it will survive. While we understand this kind of physical self-injury to be abnormal, some Christians do not see anything wrong with their spiritual disconnectedness from their local church.

The blog post goes on warn against being a free radical and encourage people to serve in the church. Read the rest. It encourages people to serve in the church and approach the pastor as one who is to aid and help rather than to be the cause or source of his groaning.

It strikes me that often people want to feel loved in the church but they are unwilling to do the hard work of loving others. We love to love when it makes us feel good, but when we have to do the hard work of serving others, then we don't like it so much. Christian love is manifest in sacrificing for other people. Far too often we all demand that everybody sacrifice for us but we recoil at the idea that we should be sacrificing our rights, our attitudes and our privileges for the sake of the body of Christ. The gospel, where Jesus sacrifices for us, becomes the model and paradigm for Christian love. This is why Jesus said that those who would be the greatest among you shall be the least--the servant.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Biblical Ministry Priorities

Love this. A pastor's priorities are: Jesus, wife, kids, life (e.g. ministry) --in that order. Reverse and rearrange to your own peril.

(HT: Josh Reich)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pulpit Plagiarism

Yesterday I got a 'pastoral resource' magazine that comes for free in order to solicit me. One of the adds caught my eye because it was advertising that through their resources I would "never suffer from writer's block again" when it comes to my sermons. It seems that they can market to pastors, sufficient resources to help. I have a feeling that this has less to do with credible helps and resources then it does with aiding to the sort of practices that encourage pulpit plagiarism. Unfortunately, the danger of said marketing is that it convinces the user he is not really plagiarizing because the person(s)/organization does not mind if their material is used.

The pastor, however, is to be spending fresh time in God's Word so that he might mine the treasures and reflect as a shepherd on the needs of his particular people based upon what this text says.

This morning on facebook a friend of mine posted a quote, which I real produce below. Although it may abound with more ease in an internet age, sadly pastoral plagiarism is not merely a recent phenomenon.

"Beware of all plagiarism.  In 1839, The Baptist Christian Watchman published that a minister in Massachusetts preached 300 sermons which he borrowed from a brother minister; that another man had preached a large part of a sermon without stating that he had copied it from another printed essay; and that three ministers were in the habit of using the lithographic discourses call "The Pulpit."  All these cases involve dishonesty.  And sound views in morals must condemn such conduct.  Any man who thus practices must lose these four things:  1, habits of invention; 2, self-respect; 3, public confidence as a perfectly fair and honest man; and 4, ability to be extensively useful.  Men will not confide in a notorious plagiarist.  He can not do much good."Hints and Helps in Pastoral Theology, William Plumer, 113-14, first published 1874

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sermon on the Ascension

I've decided to upload the manuscript of my resent sermon on the ascension of Christ. The audio is also available for listening and download.

Here's the audio:

Here's the manuscript uploaded to Scribd.
Ascension Sermon 1-9-11

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Exaltation of Christ

I think there are a lot of Christians out there that see little point for the exaltation of Christ. Sure he goes back into heaven--but it can easily be conceived of as a retreat (at worst) or a moment of relaxation (at best).  Certainly Jesus is God the Son and so he came from heaven, but so often we miss the stark difference about the way that he goes back into heaven: it is in human form.

Christ does not retreat from human form. It is not as if, having put on humanity, he now sheds his human nature like an uncomfortable itchy sweater we all just get wait to get out of so we can relax in our home. Christ's exaltation is not merely a return to normal--God is back in heaven, alls well that ends well.

In fact, Christ goes back into heaven in human form. His humanity, in which he humbled himself, is now crowned with glory and honor. If Christ's work on the cross is "for us and for our salvation" so also is his work in the ascension into heaven. He is our forerunner, a trailblazer of sorts. He goes into heaven as one of us. What is unique about Christ is that he is crowned with glory and honor as one who is a human being. It is in his human nature that he now inherits the name which is above all names (Phil. 2:9-11).

It is certainly true that his his deity he is eternally God the Son. It is of no surprise that he is welcomed back into heaven, that all things are put under his feet--indeed he is sovereign over it all by virtue of being the creator of it all. What is of great surprise and shock is that God would appoint such power to a man. Of course their is something unique about Christ in his deity--but what makes the exaltation and ascension of Christ so special is that God would do this to a man--to one who would stand to represent us as being totally human.

If the exaltation was about Christ's deity, we might just shrug at it and say, "Well he is God after all." But that the fact that this is about human flesh going back up into heaven--now that is something that should pause and make our heads turn. 

In Matthew 9:9, we read that the crowds "praised God, who had given such authority [to forgive sins] to men." On the one hand, we recognize that the crowds were most likely largely in denial about Jesus' true nature. Ok, point--send them back to theology 101. But as a Christian I think the thing that we miss is that this is God in human form declaring forgiveness of sins--a man is saying "your sins are forgiven." Jesus can say that because of who he is--he is not usurping power from God--he is God. But we still need to marvel: a man is saying and doing these things.

That same dynamic should drive our thinking about the ascension. This is a human being, one truly human--who is truly God and at the same time one who is truly human that in his humanity is having these honor bestowed upon him. We should marvel and rejoice that God would do this to a man--this ascension gives us a little picture of our destiny. If God could do this to the man Jesus, how much more can he do it to those of us who are united to this man--Our King.

Athanasius writes concerning the exaltation of Christ:

Since then the Word, being the Image of the Father and immortal, took the form of the servant, and as man underwent for us death in His flesh, that thereby He might offer Himself for us through death to the Father; therefore also, as man, He is said because of us and for us to be highly exalted, that as by His death we all died in Christ, so again in the Christ Himself we might be highly exalted, being raised from the dead, and ascending into heaven...But if now for us the Christ is entered into heaven itself, though He was even before and always Lord and Framer of the heavens, for us therefore is that present exaltation written.”
-Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1.41

Eschatology 101

Here is a paper that is my overview of eschatology. I discuss inaugurated eschatology, the intermediate state, the genre of apocalyptic, the posttribulational rapture, the millenium, the judgments and the eternal state.

Eschatology 101

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Theological "Cool-Shaming"

The idea of cool-shaming is when we fear that we might not look cool in the eyes of others. I ran across the term from Doug Wilson's two interesting posts (here and here) where it expounds in the idea of being "cool-shamed." As near as I can tell, he picked up the term and is making hay with it--good hay I might add. Yet, he only applies the term to politics so far wheras it has caused me to reflect more on how it goes on in the Christian community and the way we interact with culture. On politics he writes:
The ruling elites have a deep set of pathologies going, and many of them have by now manifested themselves as severely dysfunctional. But one of their pathologies that still works on a lot of people is their ability to act convincingly like they are still the arbiters of cool.
He borrows it from a comment thread where someone remarks:

"The shrill left approach is effective, though, when it comes to people easily embarrassed or cool-shamed. I think a lot of hard conservative types aren't willing to associate with things generally liked by mainstream red-staters who lack nuance. To them, liking Palin is similar to openly liking The Blind Side or Fireproof. Being seen to have unsophisticated tastes (even by one's enemies) is just too much to bear . . . the last thing we need is a leader with nuance. We need the right principles, black and white vision, and an inability to feel fear (or poll pressure)."
I can't help but wonder if this is something that my generation is particularly susceptible to, regardless of your political leanings. In fact, I think we might argue that if can be found in the church more than in politics. In fact, those in my generation who hold to conservative theological beliefs that are in line with historic confessional evangelicalism and the orthodox creeds are particularly susceptible to being "cool-shamed." We want people to know we are relevant, hip, socially conscious, etc. I can't help but wonder if this dynamic is in play when Frank Turk over at TeamPyro recently wrote an open letter to Derek Webb for public comments that Webb made over in a Huffington Post interview--without rehashing all that went on, suffice it to say one can't help but wonder if rather than evaluating the truth of such statements if people jumped on the bandwagon of the popular and cringed about 'tone' because they  felt a tinge of "cool-shaming".

And while our theology might be Biblical accurate, we cringe when those who are theologically "left" of us pull out the tried and try stereotypes of fundamentalism and call other moral-ninnies. Rather than evaluating the rhetoric for what it is--style over substance and lame stereotypes, we buy into it and feel the need to further distance ourselves from those deemed 'uncool.' While it is true that there are 'fundamentalists' who have no experience with the gospel, we allow those stereotypes to be applied to a whole host of people who stand up for orthodox doctrine and orthodox Christian ethics. 

We cringe at anyone who speaks publicly with moral clarity--in fact sometimes we fear so being misunderstood on the gospel of grace that we won't speak up about evil, lest we feel a certain sense of shame from our peers. We talk less about holiness but expound on ethereal conception of "love" and "tolerance" that have little or nothing to do with Jesus' ethic of love--which could show mercy and at the same time us the "s" word (Sin, not the other "s" which is seen as the 'cool' and 'authentic' one).

For myself, as a young pastor, I think it is easy to be susceptible to cool-shaming. I can think back to how it worked in high school--but I think even now I am not always sufficiently inoculated. Maybe labeling the disease is a good first step.

Consider this:
"I’ve come to the conclusion that this has been the Great Dream of my generation: to position ourselves in such a way that we’re beyond mockery. To not look stupid. That’s the biggest crime of all–looking stupid."

And then go and figure out from 1 Cor. 1:18ff where we should stand.

The Kingdom of God in the New Testament

I've been working on an overview of the present aspects of the kingdom of God. Here's what I've written:

Overview of the Kingdom of God in the NT

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Calvin Quotes on the Ascension

I don't usually add a lot of extra quotes to my sermons, but this Sunday, I included a few from John Calvin that are worth repeating.

1. I think too many Christian do not realize, believe or see the significance of the fact that after Jesus' resurrection he ascends into heaven so therefore their is a human being in bodily form in heaven. This would cut through all the metaphysical debate of what heaven is and where it is. There is a person who is in a resurrected body who is in heaven--therefore (despite the denial of some) heaven is a place with some sort of (for lack of a better way of saying it) 'spatial' component because a human body can and does take up residence there. This of course connects the believer on earth to Christ in heaven because he/she is united to Christ:
“Since he [Jesus] entered heaven in our flesh, as if in our name, it follows, as the apostle says, that in a sense we already “sit with God in the heavenly places in him” [Eph. 2:6], so that we do not await heaven with a bare hope, but in our Head already possess it.”
--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.16
2. The compassion of God is turned towards man because of Christ's ministry in heaven. This becomes the ground of confidence and hope, as Hebrews says an 'anchor for our souls.'
“Since no man is worthy to present himself to God and come into his sight, the Heavenly Father himself, to free us at once from shame and fear, which might well have thrown our hearts into despair, has given us His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord to be our advocate [1 John 2:1] and mediator with him [1 Tim. 2:5; cf. Heb. 8:6 and 9:15], by whose guidance we may confidently come to him, with such an intercessor, trusting nothing we ask in his name will be denied us, as nothing can be denied to him by the Father…
“For as soon as God’s dread majesty comes to mind, we cannot but tremble and be driven far away by the recognition of our own unworthiness, until Christ comes forward as intermediary, to change the throne of dreadful glory into the throne of grace.”
--Institutes of the Christian Religion. 3.20.17

3. We no longer have to fear the glory of God that radiates from the throne of God.
He [Christ] fills with grace and kindness the throne that for miserable sinners would other wise have been filled with dread.”
--Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.16
4. Christ has turned the Father's gaze towards us. We have an advocate in heaven:

“For, having entered a sanctuary not made with hands, he appears before the Father’s face as our constant advocate and intercessor [Heb. 7:25; 9:11-12; Rom. 8:34]. Thus he turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness to avert his gaze from our sins. He so reconciles the Father’s heart to us that by his intercession he prepares a way and access for us to the Father’s throne.”
--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.16

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Pulpit

This is worth reposting from Tony Reinke's blog:

C. H. Spurgeon, as recorded in Lectures to My Students: Second Series (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1877), page 146:
The pulpit is the Thermopylae of Christendom: there the fight will be lost or won.
To us ministers the maintenance of our power in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in full vigor. It will not avail us to be laborious pastors if we are not earnest preachers.
We shall be forgiven a great many sins in the matter of pastoral visitation if the people’s souls are really fed on the Sabbath-day; but fed they must be, and nothing else will make up for it.
The failures of most ministers who drift down the stream may be traced to inefficiency in the pulpit. The chief business of a captain is to know how to handle his vessel, nothing can compensate for deficiency there, and so our pulpits must be our main care, or all will go awry.
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...